You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens.” ~Rumi
The Fear of Intimacy
What we all deep down long for is a sense of connection with our fellow human beings. We need to feel that we belong to a greater whole — a community. Whether consciously or unconsciously, we deeply desire to love and to be loved. We crave to share our being with one another — to give and receive from the heart.
It is connection that truly makes us feel fulfilled and content. Yet, in our world connection is almost nowhere to be found. It has been lost, and people have forgotten all about it. They don’t feel part of a community — rather, they feel separated and alienated. They feel alone in a crowd that is indifferent and cold towards them. They don’t feel that they belong to the world — they just happened to be placed there but it doesn’t feel like home at all.
It’s not surprising that most of us feel this way, considering the world we’ve been brought up into. Our world is full of competition, with everyone fighting against everyone else, each for their own individual interest. They all try their best to maximize their personal gain at the expense of others.
Naturally, when you’re living in a world that is inimical to you, how can you feel at home with it? And how can you open up your heart and share your being with those around you, if you sense that their intentions are negative towards you?
It’s extremely difficult, and so you choose to close yourself off to them. You retreat, you become distant, you build walls around your heart, so thick and tall that nobody can penetrate them. By doing so, you feel protected, safe, secure, but at the same time you’re throwing your very happiness away.
Intimacy and Vulnerability
Look around you and you’ll see almost everywhere people wearing social masks to hide their psyche from others, because that’s the best way to not allow another person to come close to themselves.
When you pretend to be someone you are not, others cannot understand who you truly are, and you can’t understand them. This way any possibility of genuine communication between you and them is lost. And when there’s lack of understanding between people, how can there be connection? It’s impossible.
Connection needs intimacy, and intimacy needs openness, honesty. Therefore, in order to be intimate with another, you need to tear off your worn-out masks and expose your true self under the sun. Then people will be able to look at you in the eye and experience the depths of your being.
To be open and honest, however, means to put yourself in a state of vulnerability. In that state, you can be easily wounded (the word vulnerability is derived from the Latin vulnerare, which means “to wound”, so vulnerability is our susceptibility to be wounded) and this is what most people are afraid of. Having been wounded time and time again in the past, they don’t want to be wounded again, so they avoid opening up their hearts and exposing themselves.
Love and Intimacy
Even partners who claim to be deeply in love aren’t that intimate. They deceive one another with all sorts of tricks so as not to risk experiencing emotional vulnerability.
But when there’s no intimacy, there can’t be love. When you are afraid to open up yourself to another, how can you allow yourself to be loved by another? And how can you love another, if you don’t feel at ease with him or her?
Love is the most intimate connection, yet the most dreaded one. But I am asking you: what’s the point of living without love? There’s none. Without love, life becomes meaningless and utterly empty. Without love, there can’t be any true sense of fulfillment.
So if we’d like to find meaning and fulfillment, we need to realize that the walls between us humans have to be broken down — with our very hands. And instead of building walls that separate us, we need to build bridges that bring us together, help us to overcome our fear of intimacy and re-connect with one another.
Of course, to the separate ego, this might look like a very risky thing to do, considering the emotional vulnerability that goes hand-in-hand with close, intimate relationships. The ego will resist and do anything it can to cling to the old known past, but we shouldn’t pay attention to it — instead, we should work on what we know in our hearts to be good and act from that loving space for the benefit of ourselves and all humankind.